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Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands

Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands

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Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (3 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
2,559 pagine
22 ore
Pubblicato:
Nov 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781787011656
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Travel back to the 18th century as you wander along cobbled lanes and past meticulously restored buildings at English Harbour, Antigua; hoist a jib and set sail from sailing fantasyland, Tortola, and enjoy the journey to one of the 50 or so isles making up the British Virgin Islands; or hit the atmospheric streets of Cuba's Habana Vieja and join in the living musical soundtrack of rumba, salsa, son and reggaeton; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Caribbean Islands and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Caribbean Islands Travel Guide:

  • Color maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - weddings, honeymoons, sustainable travel, cuisine, music, wildlife, culture, history
  • Covers Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, St Kitts, St Lucia, Trinidad, Turks & Caicos, US Virgin Islands, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands, our most comprehensive guide to the Caribbean Islands, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveller since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and phrasebooks for 120 languages, and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travellers. You'll also find our content online, and in mobile apps, video, 14 languages, 12 international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more, enabling you to explore every day. Lonely Planet enables the curious to experience the world fully and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves, near or far from home.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves, it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

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  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
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  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Pubblicato:
Nov 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781787011656
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands - Lonely Planet

Caribbean Islands

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to the Caribbean Islands

Hurricane Irma

Caribbean Islands Top 28

Need to Know

If You Like

Month by Month

Itineraries

Diving & Snorkeling

Outdoors

Island-Hopping

Cruising the Caribbean

Weddings & Honeymoons

Budget Caribbean

Traveling Sustainably

Travel with Children

Islands at a Glance

On The Road

Anguilla

The Valley

Sandy Ground

Blowing Point

Meads Bay

West End

Shoal Bay East

Island Harbour

Understand Anguilla

Survival Guide

Antigua & Barbuda

Antigua & Barbuda Highlights

Antigua

St John's

Dickenson Bay & North Shore

Five Islands Peninsula

Jolly Harbour to Cades Bay

Fig Tree Drive

English Harbour

Eastern Antigua

Barbuda

Codrington

West & South Coasts

Understand Antigua

History

Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Aruba

Oranjestad

Aruba Resort Area

Northwest Coast

East Coast

San Nicolas

Spanish Lagoon & Savaneta

Understand Aruba

Survival Guide

The Bahamas

The Bahamas Highlights

New Providence

Nassau

Paradise Island

West of Nassau

Grand Bahama

Freeport & Lucaya

Out Islands

The Abacos

The Biminis

Eleuthera

Andros

The Exumas

Long Island

Understand the Bahamas

History

People & Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Barbados

Barbados Highlights

Bridgetown

Around Bridgetown

South Coast

Hastings & Rockley

Worthing

St Lawrence Gap & Dover Beach

Oistins

Silver Sands

St Philip & Crane Beach

West Coast

Paynes Bay

Holetown

Speightstown

North Barbados

Central Barbados

Bathsheba

Bathsheba South to Christ Church Parish

Understand Barbados

History

Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Bonaire

Kralendijk

North End

South End

Understand Bonaire

Survival Guide

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands Highlights

Tortola

Virgin Gorda

Jost Van Dyke

Anegada

Out Islands

Understand the British Virgin Islands

Survival Guide

Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands Highlights

Grand Cayman

George Town & Seven Mile Beach

West Bay

Bodden Town

North Side

East End

Cayman Brac

Little Cayman

Understand the Cayman Islands

History

People & Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Cuba

Cuba Highlights

Havana

Western Cuba

Vinales

Valle de Vinales

Central Cuba

Santa Clara

Trinidad

Around Trinidad

Camaguey

Eastern Cuba

Santiago de Cuba

Baracoa

Understand Cuba

History

Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Curacao

Willemstad

Southeast of Willemstad

Willibrordus & Around

West End

Understand Curacao

Survival Guide

Dominica

Roseau

Roseau Valley

Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Soufriere & Southwest Coast

Mero & Salisbury

Portsmouth

Northeastern Coast

Kalinago Territory

Understand Dominica

Survival Guide

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Highlights

Santo Domingo

Punta Cana & the Southeast

Bavaro & Punta Cana

Peninsula de Samana

Samana

Las Galeras

Las Terrenas

North Coast

Cabarete

Central Highlands

Jarabacoa

Understand the Dominican Republic

History

Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Grenada

Grenada Highlights

Grenada Island

St George's

Grand Anse

Morne Rouge Bay

Point Salines & True Blue

Lance aux Epines

La Sagesse Bay

Grand Etang National Park

Gouyave

Sauteurs

Eastern Grenada

Carriacou

Hillsborough

North of Hillsborough

South of Hillsborough

Petit Martinique

Understand Grenada

History

People & Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe Highlights

Grande-Terre

Basse-Terre Island

Les Saintes

Marie-Galante

La Desirade

Understand Guadeloupe

Survival Guide

Haiti

Haiti Highlights

Port-Au-Prince

Around Port-au-Prince

Croix des Bouquets

Route de Kenscoff

Furcy

Northern Haiti

Cap-Haitien

The Citadelle & Sans Souci

Gonaives

Southern Haiti

Jacmel

Kabic

The Southwest

Understand Haiti

History

Haiti Today

People & Culture

Survival Guide

Jamaica

Jamaica Highlights

Kingston

Blue Mountains

The North Coast

Ocho Rios

Around Ocho Rios

Port Antonio

Around Port Antonio

Montego Bay & Northwest Coast

Montego Bay

Rose Hall to Greenwood

Falmouth

Negril & West Coast

Negril

South Coast & Central Highlands

Treasure Beach

Black River

YS Falls

Understand Jamaica

History

Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Martinique

Fort-de-France

Southern Martinique

Northern Martinique

Understand Martinique

Survival Guide

Montserrat

Sights

Activities

Tours

Sleeping

Eating & Drinking

Shopping

Understand Montserrat

Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Highlights

San Juan

Around San Juan

El Yunque & Eastern Puerto Rico

El Yunque

Luquillo

Culebra & Vieques

Culebra

Vieques

Southern & Western Puerto Rico

Ponce

Bosque Estatal de Guanica

Rincon

Understand Puerto Rico

History

People & Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Saba

Windwardside

The Bottom

Fort Bay

Understand Saba

Survival Guide

Sint Eustatius

Oranjestad

Quill National Park & Around

Understand Sint Eustatius

Survival Guide

St-Barthelemy

Gustavia

Flamands

St-Jean

Lorient

Grand Cul-de-Sac & Pointe Milou

Anse de Grande Saline

Understand St-Barthelemy

Survival Guide

St Kitts & Nevis

St Kitts & Nevis Highlights

St Kitts

Basseterre

Frigate Bay

Southeast Peninsula

Northern St Kitts

Nevis

Charlestown

Northern Nevis

South Nevis

Understand St Kitts & Nevis

History

People & Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

St Lucia

Castries

Around Castries

Rodney Bay & Gros Islet

Pigeon Island

The Northern Tip

Eastern St Lucia

Marigot Bay

Soufriere & the Pitons

Vieux Fort & the South Coast

Understand St Lucia

Survival Guide

St-Martin/Sint Maarten

St-Martin & Sint Maarten Highlights

Sint Maarten

Philipsburg

Simpson Bay

St-Martin

Marigot

Terres Basses

Friars Bay

Grand Case

Anse Marcel

Orient Beach

Oyster Pond

Understand St-Martin/Sint Maarten

History

Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

St Vincent & the Grenadines

St Vincent & the Grenadines Highlights

St Vincent

Bequia

Mustique

Canouan

Mayreau

Tobago Cays

Union Island

Palm Island

Petit St Vincent

Understand St Vincent & the Grenadines

Survival Guide

Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad & Tobago Highlights

Trinidad

Port of Spain

Chaguaramas

Maracas Bay

Blanchisseuse

Brasso Seco

Grande Riviere

Northeast Coast

East Coast

West Coast

San Fernando

Tobago

Crown Point

Buccoo

Leeward Coast

Castara

Scarborough

Windward Road

Speyside

Charlotteville

Understand Trinidad & Tobago

History

People & Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

Turks & Caicos

Turks & Caicos Highlights

Caicos Islands

Providenciales

North Caicos

Middle Caicos

Turks Islands

Grand Turk

Salt Cay

Understand Turks & Caicos

History

People & Culture

Landscape & Wildlife

Survival Guide

US Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands Highlights

St Thomas

St John

St Croix

Understand US Virgin Islands

Survival Guide

Survive

Directory AZ

Accommodations

Bargaining

Climate

Embassies & Consulates

Etiquette

Food

Gay & Lesbian Travelers

Insurance

Internet Access

Legal Matters

Money

Opening Hours

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Telephone

Time

Toilets

Tourist Information

Travelers with Disabilities

Visas

Volunteering

Women Travelers

Work

Transportation

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Health

Before You Go

In the Caribbean Islands

Language

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Special Features

Beaches

Sounds of the Caribbean

Welcome to the Caribbean Islands

From high mountain peaks to shimmering reefs, spicy salsa rhythms to deep rolling reggae, pirate hideouts to sugar-sand beaches, the Caribbean is dizzyingly diverse.

Delicious Diversity

The Caribbean is a joyous mosaic of islands beckoning paradise-hunters, an explosion of color, fringed by beaches and soaked in rum. It’s a lively and intoxicating profusion of people and places spread over 7000 islands (fewer than 10% are inhabited). But, for all they share, there’s also much that makes them different. Can there be a greater contrast than between bustling Barbados and its neighbor, the seemingly unchanged-since-colonial-times St Vincent? Revolutionary Cuba and its next-door banking capital, the Caymans? Or between booming British-oriented St Kitts and its sleepy, Dutch-affiliated neighbor Sint Eustatius, just across a narrow channel?

Island Colors

Azure seas, white beaches, green forests so vivid they actually hurt the eyes – there is nothing subtle about the landscapes of the Caribbean. Swim below the waters for a color chart of darting fish and corals. Feel the sand between your toes at any one of a thousand picture-perfect beaches. Hike into emerald wilderness and spot the accents of red orchids and yellow parrots. Outdoor-adventure enthusiasts make a beeline for unspoilt islands such as nature-lovers’ Dominica and St Lucia’s iconic lush Piton mountains, which send out a siren call to climbers.

Sunlit Culture

The tropical sunlight is infectious. Like birds shedding dull adolescent plumage, visitors leave their wardrobes of gray and black behind when they step off the plane and don the Caribbean palette. Even the food is colorful, with rainbows of produce brightening up the local markets. You’ll also see every hue at intense, costume-filled festivities like Carnival, celebrated throughout the region but particularly in Trinidad. Glorious crumbling Cuba, reggae-rolling Jamaica and Vodou-loving Haiti top the wish lists for travelers seeking unique cultural experiences and Unesco heritage havens.

Tropical Adventures

You can find any kind of island adventure here. With so many islands, beaches, cultures, flavors and waves to choose from, how could this not be vacation paradise? You can do nothing on the sand, party at a resort, explore a new community, hop between islands, discover wonders under the water or catch a perfect wave above, revel in a centuries-old culture (and sway to some of the world's greatest music while you're at it), and then run off to find your inner pirate… Just about anything is possible in the Caribbean.

Petit Piton and Malgretoute Beach, St Lucia | CHAD EHLERS / GETTY IMAGES ©

Why I Love the Caribbean Islands

By Paul Clammer, Writer

I was on a beach, taking a break from research. Had I been out to the island on the edge of the bay? the fisherman asked. There was a ruin there, stories of pirates. Did I want to see? His boat was beaten up and its sail made from old plastic sheets, but in we got and dipped over the waves, then waded ashore to a tumble of buildings overgrown with roots and lianas. It felt like Treasure Island and I wondered if all guidebooks came with maps telling you 'X marks the spot.' This could only be the Caribbean...

Hurricane Irma

In early September 2017, one of the largest hurricanes ever recorded charged through the northern Caribbean region, leaving flooding and wreckage in its wake. Hurricane Irma made landfall as a category 5 storm the width of Texas, with wind speeds of 185 mph – its force sucked bays dry before creating storm surges that raced inland. The islands most strongly affected by the storm include Anguilla, Barbuda, Cuba, Puerto Rico, St-Barthélemy, St-Martin & Sint Maarten, Turks & Caicos, and the US and British Virgin Islands. The Bahamas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic also fielded some damage. Just a week later, Hurricane Maria formed in the Atlantic and increased from a Category 1 storm to a Category 5 in a mere 48 hours. This second superstorm closely followed the path of the first, making direct landfall and causing catastrophic damage in Dominica, St Croix and Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic and Turks & Caicos were also impacted by the hurricane.

The research for this book was completed and sent to print before the storms passed through the area. Damage across the Leeward Islands and the Greater Antilles ranges from mild to severe – some destinations will soon be able to clean up and reopen, while others have a longer recovery ahead. Tourism is the primary industry for many of these destinations, who will want to reopen as soon as possible; before you travel, check the official government website for each country and advice from state travel entities for information on any travel restrictions or significant closures.

Caribbean Islands Top 28

Beach Time, Anguilla

It’s hard to go past the spectacular white sandy coast and glistening turquoise waters of Anguilla. The ultimate way to while away days under the bright tropical sun on the beach is lazing on sun loungers, splashing in the sea and licking your fingers after gorging on ribs grilled over smoky barbecues. On weekends especially, find local artists jammin’ at their favorite seaside haunts, such as the world-famous Bankie Banx's Dune Preserve, built from driftwood and old boats.

ALEKSEI POTOV / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

English Harbour, Antigua

Antigua has been blessed with many off-the-charts splendors, including gorgeous beaches, crystalline waters and a deeply indented coastline with natural harbors. There's colonial tradition here too. English Harbour flaunts its heritage at one of the pre-eminent historic sites in the Caribbean: Nelson’s Dockyard. Travel back to the 18th century as you wander along cobbled lanes and past meticulously restored old buildings. Still a working marina, it’s also one of the world’s key yachting centers and attracts an international flotilla to its regattas.

Nelson’s Dockyard National Park | ALAN COPSON / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Hot & Sandy Aruba

Hit the beach with 10,000 of your new best friends on Aruba. Two legendary beaches, Eagle and Palm, stretch for miles and fulfill the sun-drenched fantasies of shivering hordes every winter. Wide, white and powdery, they face water that has enough surf to be interesting but not so much you’ll be lost at sea. The beaches are backed by shady palms, and cheery holidaymakers stay at the long row of resorts just behind. The scene here is pulsing, vibrant and happy, with action that extends well into the night.

Palm Beach | PLUSONE / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Hidden Coves, the Bahamas

With nearly 700 islands spread across 100,000 sq miles of ocean, The Bahamas has enough secluded beaches and tempting hidden coves for several lifetimes of exploration. Each island has its own character to suit a traveler's mood. For ethereal rosy-hued sands, hit up Eleuthera and Harbour Island, where beaches are tinted pink by crushed coral. The 365 Exuma Cays are a wonderland of cerulean waters and uninhabited islets, while Grand Bahama offers luscious sands fringed by teeming reefs and steaming mangroves.

Exuma Cays | JULIE ZONEY / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Surfing the Soup, Barbados

Although long the haunt of surf-happy locals, only recently has Barbados’ east-side surf break, called the Soup Bowl, gone supernova. Sets travel thousands of miles across the rough Atlantic and form into huge waves that challenge the world’s best. From September to December, faces found in surfing magazines stare wistfully out to sea from the very mellow beach village of Bathsheba. A slight calming from January to May brings out the hopefuls.

BUZZ PICTURES / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

Top Experiences

Shore Diving, Bonaire

Almost the entire coast of Bonaire is ringed by some of the healthiest coral reefs in the region. Sometimes it seems like half the population of the island are divers – and why shouldn’t they be? The Unesco-recognized shore reefs can be reached right off your room’s back deck at oodles of low-key diver-run hotels. All-you-can-breathe-in-a-week tank specials are common. Beyond the exquisite shore diving (more than half of the 90 named sites are right off the beach) are more challenging sites for advanced divers.

GEORGETTE DOUWMA / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Endowed with steady trade winds, tame currents and hundreds of protected bays, the British Virgin Islands are a sailor’s fantasyland. Many visitors come expressly to hoist a jib and dawdle among the multiple isles, trying to determine which one serves the best rum-pineapple-and-coconut Painkiller. Tortola, known as the charter-boat capital of the world, is the launching pad, so it’s easy to get geared up. Don’t know how to sail? Learn on the job with a sailing school.

LEONARD ZHUKOVSKY / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

USS Kittiwake, Cayman Islands

Off the coast of Seven Mile Beach, the 250ft (76m) submarine USS Kittiwake has found her final resting place among the creatures of the sea. Sitting in 60ft of water, the former rescue sub was purposefully sunk to create an artificial reef and a fascinating dive site. The doors and windows were removed, allowing in light and making for easy exploration of the decks and interiors. In fact, when conditions are clear, even snorkelers and free divers can investigate the ship’s upper reaches, which are only about 15ft (5m) below the surface.

AMANDA NICHOLLS / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Music & Culture, Havana, Cuba

Few come to Cuba without visiting Havana, a hauntingly romantic city, ridden with ambiguity and imbued with shabby magnificence. A stroll around the mildewed but atmospheric streets of Habana Vieja reveals rusting American Buicks, kids playing stickball with rolled-up balls of plastic, and a mishmash of architecture that mirrors the nation’s diverse history. Underlying it all is the musical soundtrack for which Cuba is famous: rumba, salsa, son, reggaeton and trova.

DELPIXEL / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Willemstad, Curaçao

Colorful Willemstad feels like a city in the old country, albeit with sunny skies and Caribbean views. This cosmopolitan capital is a cultural treasure trove, complete with unique museums, street art and vibrant nightlife. On both sides of the Sint Annabaai shipping channel, the city streets are lined with Dutch-colonial architecture, here with a citrus-hued, tropical twist. The historic districts are being restored and re-energized, especially Pietermaai, now housing boutique hotels, fine restaurants and funky cafes.

FILIP CARMEN / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Wild Wonder, Dominica

Dominica is one of the least developed and most unusual islands in the region. Covered almost entirely by thick, virgin rainforest, it has a landscape quilted with innumerable shades of green. Stagger into beautiful scenes of misty waterfalls, chilly and boiling lakes, hot sulfur springs steaming through the earth, and valleys and gorges chiseled by time and the elements. It’s a natural mosaic that will tug mightily at the hearts of artists, wanderers, romantics and anyone with a green bent.

Emerald Pool | EMPERORCOSAR / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Kitesurfing, Dominican Republic

Do your part for the environment: use wind-powered transportation. Year-round strong offshore breezes make Cabarete, on the north coast of the DR, one of the undisputed capitals for the burgeoning sport of kitesurfing. Harnessing the wind’s power to propel you over the choppy surface of the Atlantic isn’t like another day at the beach. It takes training and muscles, not to mention faith, before you can try the moves of the pros from around the world who ply their trade here.

DAN GALIC / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

Top Experiences

The Carenage, St George's, Grenada

One of the prettiest waterfronts in the Caribbean, this buzzing little horseshoe-shaped harbor is the perfect place to get a flavor of Grenada, with bobbing boats, busy cafes and a sprinkling of shady spots where you can watch the world go by or admire the lineup of gorgeous old waterside buildings. Spreading up from the bay, the hillside hodgepodge of brightly colored rooftops and a glowering stone fort get a scenic backdrop courtesy of the green, misty peaks of the Grand Etang National Park.

LASZLO HALASI / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

This Basse-Terre village strikes just the right balance between working fishing port and sophisticated dining destination to keep its well-heeled visitors happy. The setting is like a colonial-era painting, with wooden houses lining the tidy sand beach and colorful fishing boats bobbing up and down in the turquoise waters. Only the odd yacht in the distance gives you any indication of the smart crowd that flocks to Deshaies for its great restaurants, lively bars and fabulous nearby beaches.

AGE FOTOSTOCK / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

Top Experiences

Citadelle Laferrière, Haiti

In recent years Haiti has been slowly revealing itself as the Caribbean's hidden tourist gem. International hotel chains are starting to catch on, but you can still beat the crowds. Reasons to go? How about the Citadelle Laferrière, the largest fort in the Americas, built on a mountaintop to hold 5000 soldiers and defend the world's first black republic from French invasion. It's one of the Caribbean's most staggering World Heritage sites, and you'll have it almost entirely to yourself.

CAMERON DAVIDSON / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Down in Treasure Beach, miles from the urban chaos of Kingston, you’ll find a quiet stretch of sand where visitors, expats and Jamaican locals kick back every evening. Beers are passed around, reggae cracks over the air and a supreme sense of chilled-out-ed-ness – oh, let’s just say it: ‘irie’ – descends onto the crowd. Music, food, Red Stripe, smiles – it all comes together here to create the laid-back Jamaican scene that many travelers dream of. Come for a day, stay for a week.

DOUG PEARSON / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Fishing Villages, Martinique

The remedy to the often-rampant development that surrounds the busy Martinican capital of Fort-de-France can be found in its many charming fishing villages, where life goes on much as it always has and the tourist dollar has still not made much of an impact. Surrounded by majestic forested hillsides and framed by crescent sand beaches, there’s a particularly gorgeous string of these beauties on the island’s southwestern corner – don’t miss lovely Anse d’Arlet Bourg or stunning Grande Anse.

Grand Anse, Les Anses d’Arlet | DOUG PEARSON / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Even those limited to a quick visit find it easy to fall under the beguiling spell of the cobblestone streets, pastel-painted colonial buildings and grand fortresses of Old San Juan. Atop the ramparts of El Morro, the allure of this place is evident in every direction – from the labyrinth of crooked lanes to the endless sparkle of the Atlantic. By day, lose yourself in historical stories of blood and drama; by night, tap in (and tap along) to the condensed cluster of bars and clubs constituting the neighborhood's nightlife.

ESB PROFESSIONAL / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Hiking, Saba

Rising dramatically out of the ocean, tiny Saba’s volcanic peak can only be fully appreciated in person. Even the craftiest photographers can’t correctly capture its beauty, especially ethereal when the setting sun casts flickering shadows across the forested terrain. Sign up for a trek with Crocodile James and wend your way through fascinatingly different climate zones as you make your way from the crashing waves up into the lazy clouds. From the top, you can stare out over the island's traditional gingerbread-trimmed, red-roofed white cottages in the valleys below.

DEBRA BEHR / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

Top Experiences

Oranjestad Ruins, Sint Eustatius

The ruins scattered throughout Sint Eustatius' capital and sole town, Oranjestad, are whispers of a forgotten age, when rum, gold and slaves moved around the world with great alacrity. Sint Eustatius’ naturally deep harbor was the doorway to the New World, and during its golden era there were over 25,000 inhabitants representing a diverse spread of cultures and religions. Today, all that’s left of this time are the stone skeletons of several imposing forts, mansions, a synagogue and a church.

Fort Oranje | FRANS LEMMENS / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

Top Experiences

French-Flavored St-Barthélemy

It’s easy to dismiss St-Barthélemy as the Caribbean’s capital of jet-setterdom, but there’s so much more to this hilly island. Cradled within its craggy coves are small towns with stone walls that look as though they’ve been plucked directly from the French countryside. This counterpoint of cultures plays out in the local cuisine as well – scores of world-class restaurants dish out expertly crafted meals that meld the savoir faire and mastery of French cuisine with vivid bursts of bright island flavors.

PHOTOSTRAVELLERS / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Spellbinding Views, St Kitts & Nevis

Nevis is tailor-made for trading the beach lounger for the nature trail. Hit the higher ground on a ramble through luxuriant tropical forest, colorful gardens and cane fields clinging to the slopes of volcanic Mt Nevis. Walk through air perfumed by exotic flowers and along paths shaded by fruit-laden trees while keeping an eye out for the elusive vervet monkey. Panoramic views opening up between the foliage extend to other islands, including neighboring St Kitts, and will have you burning up the bytes in your digicam, fast.

ART BOARDMAN / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Soufrière, St Lucia

Swim-up bars, lavish spas, infinity pools, gourmet restaurants… When it comes to upscale resorts, St Lucia is hard to beat and there’s something for everybody. Some venues are straight from the pages of a glossy magazine, with luxurious units that ooze style and class, such as Ladera, Hotel Chocolat and Jade Mountain, near Soufrière, while others specialize in all-inclusive packages. You don’t need to remortgage the house to stay in one of them; special rates can be found on the hotels’ websites or on booking sites.

Jade Mountain | THOMASFLUEGGE / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

St-Martin/Sint Maarten

Most island-goers would consider huge careening jets and large tracts of concrete runway to be noisy eyesores, but not on St-Martin/Sint Maarten. Clustered around Princess Juliana International Airport – the area’s transportation hub – you’ll find a handful of bumpin’ bars that cling to the sides of the runway while also abutting the turquoise waters. At Sunset Bar & Grill, arrival times are posted in chalk on a surfboard and aircraft landings are awaited with much anticipation.

SOLARISYS / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Island Hopping in St Vincent & the Grenadines

It’s heard in office cubicles the world over daily: ‘I’m chucking it all in and going to tramp around tropical islands!’ In a world of package tourism, huge cruise ships and mega-resorts, the very idea seems lost in another, simpler time. Until, that is, you reach the Grenadines. Starting with Bequia, multiple tiny islands stretch south, linked by regular ferries. Jump aboard or hitch a ride on a passing yacht to feel the wind in your face and head off to adventure.

HAUKE DRESSLER / LOOK-FOTO / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Carnival, Trinidad & Tobago

Home to one of the world’s biggest and best Carnivals, Trinidad is party central, and its two days of festival fabulousness have inspired the most creative and dynamic music and dance culture in the Caribbean. Visit a panyard and let the rhythmic sweetness of steel pan vibrate through your body, check out the fireworks and drama of a soca concert or, best of all, don a spangly, feathery masquerade band costume and learn to ‘wine your waist’ like the locals during the two-day street parade.

BLACQBOOK / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Historic Cockburn Town, Turks & Caicos

Look no further for the old Caribbean than Cockburn Town, the tiny national capital of the Turks and Caicos, where brightly painted colonial buildings line the roads and life goes on at a wonderfully slow pace miles away from the resorts of Providenciales. Wander down Duke St and Front St and pass whitewashed stone walls, traditional streetlamps and creaking old buildings, some of which have miraculously survived for over two centuries in this charming backwater.

RICHARD CUMMINS / GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Cruz Bay, US Virgin Islands

Nowhere embodies the territory’s vibe better than Cruz Bay, St John. As the gateway to Virgin Islands National Park, it has trails right from town that wind by shrub-nibbling wild donkeys and drop onto secluded beaches prime for snorkeling. All the activity can make a visitor thirsty, so it’s a good thing Cruz Bay knows how to host a happy hour. Hippies, sea captains, retirees and reggae devotees all clink glasses at daily parties that spill out into the street.

ESB PROFESSIONAL / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Need to Know

Main Currencies

US dollar (US$), Euro (€), Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)

Language

English, Spanish, French

Visas

Requirements vary from island to island. Citizens of Canada, the EU and the US don’t need visas for visits of under 90 days throughout the region.

Money

US dollars are often accepted in lieu of local currency (and in some cases are the local currency).

Cell Phones

Most cell phones work in the Caribbean; avoid roaming charges with easily bought local SIM cards. The biggest operators in the Caribbean are Digicel and Flow. Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands are included in US plans.

Time

Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic: Eastern Standard Time (five hours behind GMT/UTC). All other islands: Atlantic Standard Time (four hours behind GMT/UTC).

When to Go

High Season (Dec–Apr)

A People fleeing the northern winter arrive in droves and prices peak.

A The region’s driest time.

A Can be cold in the northern Caribbean from Cuba to the Bahamas.

Shoulder (May, Jun & Nov)

A The weather is good, rains are moderate.

A Warm temperatures elsewhere reduce visitor numbers.

A Best mix of affordable rates and good weather.

Low Season (Jul–Oct)

A Hurricane season; odds of being caught are small, but tropical storms are like clockwork.

A Good for eastern Caribbean’s surf beaches eg Barbados.

A Room prices can be half or less than in high season.

Useful Websites

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/caribbean) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveler forum and more.

Caribbean Journal (www.caribjournal.com) Regional news and travel features.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than US$150

A Room away from the beach: under US$100

A Meal at a locally popular restaurant: US$10

A Local buses: US$3

Midrange: US$150–US$300

A Double room in the action: US$200

A Bikes or snorkel rental: US$10

A Rental car for exploring: US$40–60

Top End: More than US$300

A Beautiful rooms at the best resorts in high season: US$400 and over

A Activities in beautiful places: US$100 and up

A World-renowned meals: US$100 per person and more

Opening Hours

Opening hours vary across the region, although Sunday remains sacrosanct, with businesses and offices firmly shut throughout the Caribbean. Note that small and family-run businesses may close for a period between August and November.

Top Tips

The US dollar is king. Credit cards are widely accepted in most destinations, but it's always useful to carry some extra in cash.

Hiring a car can be a great way to explore an island.

Islanders tend to dress smartly when they can – keep the beachwear for the beach. Topless/nude swimming is never allowed unless in specially designated areas.

When snorkeling or scuba diving, never touch coral, which can be easily damaged.

Book accommodation and car rental in advance to save money. High-season prices particularly apply in December and January.

Much of the Caribbean is poor – use common sense about flashing around expensive smartphones and jewellery.

Arriving in the Caribbean Islands

Every airport will have taxis waiting for flights.

Many hotels and resorts will meet your flight, usually for a modest fee.

Car rental is easily arranged in advance, either through major firms or small local outfits. Don't expect cars to be available for walk-up rental in high season.

Public transit that's convenient for arriving visitors at airports is uncommon.

Getting Around

Air Flights between islands within sight of each other; flying may require long detours and connections.

Rental car Always available from somebody; note variations in local road rules. Road conditions are usually bad; travel can be very slow, despite what seems to be short distances.

Public minivan or bus Cheap; can be found in some form on most islands, get info by asking locals.

Charter taxi On all islands, taxi drivers will give custom tours and arrange for cross-island transfers; agree to a fee in advance.

Ferry Not common, only operating on some routes.

For much more on getting around, see the Transport chapter.

If You Like…

White-Sand Beaches

After the color of the water, white-sand beaches may be the second-biggest cliché of the Caribbean. But what a cliché! Almost every island has at least one perfect stretch of powdery sand.

Anse de Gouverneur ( GOOGLE MAP ) Wide and blissfully secluded, St-Barthélemy’s beautiful beach lines a U-shaped bay with high cliffs at both ends.

Grace Bay Beach A world-famous long stretch of sand in the Turks and Caicos: you can easily find your own patch of paradise.

White Bay Bask on the dazzling white sand, sip a cocktail and watch people coming in off yachts in the British Virgin Islands.

Barbuda There is no such thing as a bad beach on this island.

Shoal Bay Palm-shaded beach bars in Anguilla fringe this quintessential Caribbean strand's sparkling white sand.

Good-Vibe Music

Reggae, calypso, salsa, soca and more – the music of the Caribbean is as ingrained in perceptions of the region as beaches and fruity drinks. Vibrant and ever changing, the Caribbean’s beat is its soul and reason alone to make the trip.

Jamaica The island that comes with a soundtrack, Jamaica is unbeatable for reggae and dancehall parties.

Trinidad & Tobago Electrifying, mesmerizing and embodying the creativity of Trinidad and Tobago, steel-pan music here is infectious.

Santiago de Cuba Cuba’s most Caribbean city grinds to its own rhythm in sweaty bars and open-air trova and rumba clubs.

Dominican Republic Test out your merengue moves with seriously talented dancers at one of Santo Domingo’s nightclubs.

Puerto Rico Music and dance are part of daily life from the smallest village to the streets of San Juan.

Romantic Getaways

With 7000 islands, the Caribbean has no shortage of places to get away to and shut out the world. People have been flocking here for steamy, sultry times for decades and everybody’s in on it.

Golden Rock Inn, Nevis Fall asleep to a tree frog serenade amid the tropical gardens on the edge of the rainforest.

Dominica Cuddle and cocoon in an off-grid eco-lodge surrounded by the untamed rainforest of this fairy-tale island.

Petite Anse, Grenada Has an isolated beach, fragrant with the natural perfumes the island is known for.

The Grenadines Pick a tiny island like Bequia, Mustique or Canouan and let love blossom.

Anguilla Many of Anguilla's luxurious villas have amenities such as private butlers and direct beach access.

Snorkeling

Many of the top dive spots in the region are also rewarding for snorkelers, and there are some sites that are best enjoyed sporting only a mask and fin.

Buck Island ( GOOGLE MAP ; www.nps.gov/buis) Its 29 sq miles (76 sq km) of coral reef system is so impressive it’s a National Monument.

Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park With more than 175 sq miles(453 sq km) of protected land and sea, you won’t know which shallows to explore first.

Curaçao Snorkel with sea turtles at Playa Grandi or explore the unique double reef at Playa Porto Mari.

Lower Town Beach In Sint Eustatius you can snorkel among the ruins of Oranjestad's Lower Town.

Réserve Cousteau A marine reserve with big fish schools and shallow reefs that are perfect for snorkeling.

Colonial Towns

French, British and Spanish ships carrying explorers and colonizers once prowled the Caribbean waters. They established some of the hemisphere’s oldest and enduringly charming towns.

Havana A vast and crumbling metropolitan time capsule, the Cuban capital can steal days of your life.

Willemstad Little changed in a century, this 300 year old Dutch city in Curçao is being beautifully restored.

Sint Eustatius Once the busiest seaport in the world, it's littered with archaeological sites and ruins.

Cockburn Town The real old Caribbean, Turks and Caicos' Cockburn Town is undeveloped and absolutely charming.

Old San Juan Half of Puerto Rico's Old San Juan is in a collapsing shambles – but that only adds to the appeal.

Santo Domingo The Dominican Republic's capital is home to the Caribbean's biggest and oldest colonial district.

Outdoor Adventure

The biggest problem with getting outside for an adventure in the Caribbean is choosing a location: you can surf the waves, hike a volcano, mountain bike the trails and more.

Surfing, Puerto Rico Feel the good vibes and ride the near-perfect waves that roll up in the farthest corner of Puerto Rico.

Windsurfing, Barbados The southern surf isn’t too rough, the wind blows well and one of the world’s great windsurf shops is here.

Hiking, Martinique Hike along the base of the still-smoldering Mont Pelée, a volcano that wiped out Martinique’s former capital in 1902.

Mountain biking, St Lucia Ride among the remnants of old plantations and along the sandy shores of Anse Mamin beach.

Hiking, US Virgin Islands Feral donkeys watch as you hike along St John’s trails to petroglyphs, sugar-mill ruins and beaches.

Windsurfing, Barbados | BENGT GEIJERSTAM / GETTY IMAGES ©

Rolicking Nightlife

Sipping a glass of wine on a beach with someone special while yachts gently clank offshore, making a hundred new friends at a raucous strip of bars, losing yourself in intoxicating island culture: all ways you’ll relish the hours after dark.

Havana A music and culture scene unmatched in the Caribbean – cabarets, rumba, jazz, cutting-edge ballet and more.

Frigate Bay South, St Kitts Compare the potency of the rum punches poured at the string of funky beach bars making up the ‘Strip’.

Fortaleza, San Juan The heart of nightlife in Old San Juan – a lively mix of tourists and locals out for their evening stroll.

Kingston, Jamaica Check out an all-night dancehall street party or the coolest reggae and dub vibes on the planet.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti Few Caribbean nights are as memorable as seeing the Vodou rock-and-roots band RAM at iconic Hotel Oloffson.

Pirates, Forts & Ruins

It could be a movie set. Wait, it was! Old forts and other crumbling ruins date from the days when buccaneers owned the waters.

Brimstone Hill Fortress, St Kitts This rambling hilltop citadel is an outstandingly well preserved example of 18th-century British military architecture.

Citadelle Laferrière, Haiti A vast mountaintop fortress built to repel French invasions; one of the most inspiring sights in the Caribbean.

Wallilabou Bay, St Vincent The lush bay here was used as a backdrop for a couple of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Port Royal, Jamaica ( h9am-5pm) Wander the fascinating historic sites of what was once the pirate capital of the Caribbean.

St-Pierre, Martinique The island's former capital has many ruins from the 1902 eruption of Mt Pelée.

Watching Wildlife

We don’t mean the folks partying one bar over. When it comes to watching wildlife, divers don’t have all the fun. There’s plenty of wildlife to spot above the water in some of the remote corners of the Caribbean.

Frigate Bird Sanctuary, Barbuda ( GOOGLE MAP ; sea taxi US$50, 4 people maximum, national park US$2) Observe magnificent birds up close in one of the world’s largest frigate bird colonies.

Grand Cayman Frolick with starfish, sea turtles and stingrays on the largest of the Cayman Islands.

Turks & Caicos Salt Cay is one of the best places on earth to see whales during the annual humpback migration.

Bonaire Take a break from the underwater thrills to spot pink flamingos across the island.

Parque Nacional Los Haitises, Dominican Republic Watch birds and manatees from a boat cruising through mangrove forest.

Flamingos, Bonaire | JUSTIN LEWIS / GETTY IMAGES ©

Month by Month

Top Events

Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, January

Carnival, Trinidad, February

Jacmel Carnival, Haiti February

Reggae Sumfest, July

Crop-Over Festival, July

January

New Year’s is celebrated with huge gusto in the Caribbean. Resorts are full, and people are partying. Weather across the region is balmy, although there is the odd cool day in the north.

z Triumph of the Revolution

Cuba celebrates the New Year, the revolution and the nation’s birth. Sure there are speeches – often long ones – but this is really an excuse for people to take to the streets with a passion.

z Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián

Puerto Rico’s famous street party, Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, draws big crowds to Old San Juan for a week in mid-January. There are parades, dancing and much more.

February

Carnival is a huge event in many Caribbean countries, where it is tied to the Lenten calendar.

z Carnival

It’s the biggest party in the Caribbean. Trinidad spends all year gearing up for its legendary, pre-Lent street party, with steel-pan bands, blasting soca and calypso music, and outrageous costumes. Ecstatic revelers indulge their most hedonistic inclinations as they welcome in Carnival.

Other islands also hold raucous, pre-Lenten Carnival celebrations, including Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominica (Roseau), Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo), Haiti (Jacmel), Martinique (Fort-de-France), Puerto Rico (Ponce) and St-Barthélemy.

Kiddie Mas parade, Port of Spain, Trinidad | JOHN DE LA BASTIDE / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

3 Bob Marley's Birthday

The love for the sound that plays in beach bars worldwide brings fans to the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica on Bob Marley’s birthday, February 6, and kicks off Jamaica's reggae month.

z Holetown Festival

A week of celebration, the Holetown Festival marks the anniversary of the first English settlers’ arrival on Barbados.

2 Master of the Ocean

Called a ‘triathlon of the waves,’ this thrilling competition has the world’s best windsurfers, kitesurfers and surfers going board to board on Playa Encuentro in the Dominican Republic during the last week in February.

March

It’s high season throughout the Caribbean. On Barbados, American college students invade for spring break. The late-winter influx of visitors is greeted by lovely weather everywhere.

z St Patrick's Week

It’s not a day, it’s a week on Montserrat. There’s a lot of Irish heritage here so the day o’ green has always been huge. Costumes, food, drink, dance and concerts by the much-lauded Emerald Community Singers are highlights.

6 Maricao Coffee Festival

Puerto Rico's annual Maricao Coffee Festival has demonstrations of traditional coffee-making and local crafting. The mountain backdrop is sublime, and the air fills with the scent of roasting beans.

April

Easter signals more Carnivals. High season continues but the winds of change are blowing. Rates begin to fall at resorts. Temperatures are climbing in the south but the Caribbean is mostly dry.

z Simadan

Bonaire’s harvest festival is held in the small town of Rincon in early April. This is only proper as Rincon was the historic home of the slaves who were brought to the island to make salt and harvest food. The celebrations include traditional dance and food.

2 Easter Regatta

The Grenadines may be the most boat-friendly region in the Caribbean, with natural moorings throughout. And Bequia is the star of the Grenadines so it makes sense that St Vincent & the Grenadine’s top sailing event is here.

z Oistins Fish Festival

On the southern coast of Barbados, the Oistins Fish Festival commemorates the signing of the Charter of Barbados and celebrates the skills of local fishermen. It’s held over Easter weekend and features boat races, fish-filleting competitions, local foods and dancing.

z Séu Parade

Curaçao’s ‘Feast of the Harvest’ features parades replete with folk music and dancing on Easter Monday. People in rural areas go a little nuts, and for them it outclasses Carnival.

z Carnival

The Easter Carnival in Kingston brings people into the streets for music and an impressive costume parade (www.jamaicacarnival.com). Huge, as you'd expect.

The two-week Sint Maarten Carnival hFeb/Mar & Apr/May), on the Dutch side, outclasses its counterpart on the French side. Activities begin in the second week after Easter.

2 Antigua Sailing Week

The Caribbean’s largest regatta, Antigua Sailing Week follows the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and involves a range of sailing and social events around Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour.

2 Family Island Regatta

This regatta draws hundreds of yachts to Elizabeth Harbour, in the Bahamas, during the last week of April.

3 Carriacou Maroon & String Band Festival

Held late in the month, this music festival draws hordes of partiers from Grenada for big-drum music and dancing, string bands and every other Carriacou tradition at venues around the tiny island.

May

May sees the last of the Caribbean's carnivals, as the temperatures start to get hotter and hotter.

z Cayman Batabano

Cayman Islands' answer to Carnival is a week-long festival of music and masquerade parades – for adults and children alike – during the first week in May (www.caymancarnival.com).

June

June remains dry and relatively storm-free. Like May, it’s not a peak time for visitors, except the savvy ones who value dry, sunny days and low hotel rates.

3 St Kitts Music Festival

Top-name calypso, soca, reggae, salsa, jazz and gospel performers from throughout the Caribbean pack into Basseterre’s Warner Park during this three-day music festival. Reserve a room way in advance.

July

A busy month! Summer holiday crowds start arriving, as do the very first tropical storms of the hurricane season. There’s another tranche of Carnivals and other special events.

3 Reggae Sumfest

The big mama of all reggae and dancehall festivals, held in late July in Montego Bay Jamaica, this event brings top acts together for an unforgettable party. Even if you’re not attending, you’re attending – the festivities tend to take over MoBay.

z Saba Summer Festival

Saba’s Summer Festival runs for one activity-filled week in late July.

z Carnival

St Vincent’s Carnival and biggest cultural event for the year, Vincy Mas, is held in late June and early July. Santiago de Cuba throws Cuba’s oldest, biggest and wildest celebration in the last week of July. Sint Eustatius celebrates for 10 days in late July, with music and local food.

3 Santo Domingo Merengue Festival

Santo Domingo hosts the Dominican Republic’s largest and most raucous merengue festival. For two weeks at the end of July and the beginning of August, the world’s top merengue bands play for the world’s best merengue dancers all over the city.

z BVI Emancipation Festival

Held on Tortola, the nation’s premier cultural event features beauty pageants, horse racing and ‘rise and shine tramps’ (3am parades led by reggae bands). The celebration marks the end of slavery (1834).

z Crop-Over Festival

Beginning in mid-July and running until early August, the Crop-Over Festival (hJul & Aug) is Barbados’ top event and features fairs, activities and a parade.

Costumed participant in the Crop-Over Festival, Barbados | ICONOTEC / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

August

The summer high season continues and you can expect the first real storms of the hurricane season, although mostly that means heavy rains as opposed to big blows.

z Antigua Carnival

The famous Antigua Carnival celebrates the country's emancipation from slavery during 10 days of merriment starting in late July, culminating with a grand parade on the first Tuesday in August. Calypso music, steel bands, masked merrymakers, floats and street parties all add to the excitement.

z Anguilla Summer Festival

Anguilla’s 10-day-long Summer Festival (hlate Jul-early Aug) takes place around the first week of August and is celebrated with boat races, music, dancing and more.

z Grenada Carnival

Grenada’s big annual event may be later than most islands’ but that doesn’t dim its festivities. The celebration is spirited and includes calypso and steel-pan competitions, costumed revelers, pageants and a big, grand-finale jump-up (nighttime street party).

September

Crowds are down and the weather tends to be wet. This is the low season and it might be a good time to rent a beach house for a month and write that book.

1 Martinique Heritage Days

Martinique’s Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) celebrate local culture and history principally through the opening of buildings to the public that are normally closed.

October

Dominica comes to the rescue of what is otherwise a quiet month (other than a few passing squalls). Some family-run businesses close for the month.

3 World Creole Music Festival

Dominica’s ode to Creole music attracts big-name Caribbean music and dance acts, and food vendors sell much spicy goodness.

2 Sea & Learn

For two weeks in October Saba becomes a learning center for scientists and enthusiasts who take part in activities from helping out on a shark research project to learning how to use tropical plants to make medicinal teas.

November

Hurricane season has mostly blown itself out and Christmas decorations are going up. Baseball season arrives in the Dominican Republic.

z Pirates Week

This wildly popular family-friendly extravaganza on Grand Cayman features a mock pirate invasion, music, dances, costumes, games and controlled mayhem. Book hotels in advance or you’ll be out on your booty (www.piratesweekfestival.com).

3 Livin in the Sun

Some of the hottest DJs from around the planet hit the decks at locations across Anguilla and out on Sandy Island during this three-day beat-filled festival in mid-November (www.livininthesun.com).

3 St Kitts Carnival

Carnival is the biggest event on St Kitts. It starts in mid-November, kicking into high gear for two weeks of music, dancing and steel pan on December 26.

December

High season begins mid month and incoming flights are full. Rates are up and everything is open. Down backstreets Carnival prep is reaching fever pitch on many islands.

z Rastafari Rootzfest

A three-day gathering near Negril, Jamaica celebrating the best of Rastafari culture, from reggae and I-tal food to the Ganjamaica grower's cup (the latter sponsored by the Jamaican Ministry of Tourism).

3 Junkanoo

The Bahamas national festival starts in the twilight hours of Boxing Day (December 26). It’s a frenzied party with marching ‘shacks,’ colorful costumes and music. Crowds prepare much of the year for this Carnival-like happening.

Itineraries

Easy-to-Access Virgin Islands

1 Week

Scads of nonstop flights put the US Virgin Islands in easy reach of the US and Canada. One week gives the ideal overview of this small but perfectly formed cluster of islands.

Start on St John. Spend day one at the North Shore beaches: Cinnamon Bay, with windsurfing and trails through mill ruins; Maho Bay, where sea turtles swim; or Leinster Bay/Waterlemon Cay, where snorkelers can jump in amid rays and barracuda. Raise a toast to your beach in rollicking Cruz Bay.

Spend day two at Salt Pond Bay, where cool hikes, groovy beachcombing and turtle snorkeling await. Drink, dance and dine with the colorful characters in Coral Bay afterward.

Devote day three to the Reef Bay Hike, kayaking along coastal reefs or another favorite activity. Hop on a ferry on day four to check out St ThomasEast End, with its resorts and marine park.

Spend part of day five in the popular cruise-ship stop of Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, then take the seaplane to Christiansted, St Croix. Over the next two days drink at old windmills turned gin mills, dive its barrier reef and paddle through the glowing waters of Salt River Bay.

Stingray Sandbar, Grand Cayman | JEFFREY RICHARDS / GETTY IMAGES ©

Itineraries

Cuba & the Cayman Islands

2 weeks

The contrasts of this itinerary make it appealing – enjoy a bastion of socialism and a citadel of capitalism. Grand Cayman is a major transit point for people visiting Cuba and there are daily flights between the two, although Havana is served increasingly well by direct flights from the USA.

Begin your trip in Havana, Cuba's extraordinary capital city, and stay at one of the venerable old luxury hotels for prices that haven’t changed in years but are anticipated to rise in a post-Fidel tourism boom. Marvel at block after block of gloriously dissolving buildings, listen to some music and drink with locals. Just wander around: every block holds a surprise and the seawall is world-famous. Head to Santa Clara and the venerable monument to Ernesto Che Guevara, the city’s adopted son, then plunge into the city’s youth-oriented culture. Push on from here to Trinidad, a Unesco World Heritage site. You can easily spend a week in this perfectly preserved Spanish-colonial town, hiking in Topes de Collantes or lazing at Playa Ancón. Head east to Santiago de Cuba and its many attractions, including the Castillo de San Pedro del Morro, the Cuartel Moncada and, of course, the vibrant music scene.

Return to Havana and fly on to Grand Cayman. Head straight to Seven Mile Beach and do purely fun things such as snorkeling at Stingray City. Grand Cayman is known for its commercialism, but you can see another side to the islands if you carry on with an excursion to Little Cayman, where the 120 or so residents will be happy to see you. Laze on its deserted beaches and consider a world-class wall dive at Bloody Bay Marine Park. Choose from its several excellent yet low-key resorts, and have the best ice cream of the trip at the National Trust Visitors Center. There's great birdwatching, and if you're feeling energetic you can cycle around the whole island in a single day.

Statue of Che Guevara, Conjunto Escultórico Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, Santa Clara, Cuba | ANTHONY COLLINS / GETTY IMAGES ©

Itineraries

Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao

2 weeks

The small size of all three islands, Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao, means that even the most peripatetic vacationer will require little time for complete explorations, meaning there’ll be plenty of time to simply plop down and relax.

Most places to stay, eat and even play on Aruba are in the north. Stay on relaxed Eagle Beach, Aruba’s best. Assuming you’re here for the sand – that’s Aruba’s real charm – then besides a day to explore the wet and wild northeast coast, Arikok National Wildlife Park, which has some nice hiking trails, and interesting Oranjestad (which hops when the cruise ships are in port), you should just play on the beach. And given the vast stretches of sand on the island, it won’t be too hard to find the ideal plot for your beach blanket.

From Aruba, it's quick hop over to Curaçao. This is an island to take your time exploring. Stay in colonial Willemstad, which is one of the region’s most interesting towns, then wander the coasts to the north, where national parks, restored plantations and a bevy of hidden beaches await. Count on three days at least to enjoy it all at a leisurely pace, including climbing Christoffell Mountain and exploring Shete Boka National Park. You might even want to try some snorkeling or head to Spaanse Water, where the windsurfing will blow you away.

Fly from Curaçao to Bonaire. Once you're there, you may not see much of the island above sea level as you’ll be underwater much of the time. One of the world’s great diving locations, Bonaire’s underwater splendor and 90 named dive sites will keep you busy. Exploring the island, which has stark beauty and flamingo-spotting, and learning about an easily accessed past will take about a day. The island’s second city – a village really – Rincon, has a slow and inviting pace, while at the horizon-spanning salt flats in the south you can still see evidence of slavery and colonial trade. In the middle of it all, cute little Kralendijk combines eating, sleeping and fun.

Itineraries

Sint Maarten & Neighboring Islands

1 week

Once off the plane in St-Martin/Sint-Maarten, you can hop your way around some of the Caribbean’s cutest islands by ferry and never see another plane until it’s time to go home.

Head to the French side of the island and hang out in Grand Case, where your dining choices range from beach-shack casual to fine-French bistro. For beach time try the local favorite Friar’s Bay, then from Marigot, make the 25-minute ferry run to Anguilla. Once there, choose between two beaches: popular Shoal Bay East or the quieter, windswept Junk’s Hole.

Back on St-Martin/Sint Maarten, head down to Philipsburg for some retail therapy. Get a ferry to Saba, and enjoy views of its splendid volcano. Explore the small town of Windwardside, then head out for a hike up Mt Scenery. Rent some diving gear – waters here teem with nurse sharks.

Back in Philipsburg, take the ferry to St-Barthélemy. Have lunch at the gorgeous French capital of Gustavia, and then sun yourself on white-sand Anse de Colombier ( GOOGLE MAP ). Although St-Barth is fabled as a playground of the rich and famous, the beauty of the island is that this matters little once everybody’s in T-shirts and shorts.

Itineraries

Dominica to St Lucia

1 Week

Hopscotch your way south through some of the least visited, least developed Caribbean islands.

Begin in Dominica, which many consider the wildest and most natural of the bunch. Start by getting on local time at the comfy properties of Calibishie near the airport, then lose yourself in the rainforest at Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site. On an island laced with waterfalls, the half-day walk in the park to Middleham Falls is splendid. Celebrate with a glass of bubbly – or at least the natural bubbles that

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